Risks to human health

Impact of Industrial Turbines on Human Health

What are the health risks?

Worldwide, people are reporting feeling unwell after wind turbines are erected near their homes. The impact of the noise includes the following:

• sleep disturbance • headache • tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) • ear pressure • dizziness (a general term that includes vertigo, lightheadedness, faintness, etc.) • vertigo (clinically, vertigo refers to the sensation of spinning, or the room moving) • nausea • visual blurring • tachycardia (rapid heart rate) • irritability • problems with concentration and memory • panic episodes with sensations of internal pulsation or quivering, while awake or asleep    (Eja Pedersen et al., Response to noise From Modern Wind Farms in The Netherlands, 2009; Eja Pedersen, Human response to wind turbine noise — Perception, annoyance and moderating factors, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, The Sahlgrenska Academy, Gotenborg, 2007; Tharpaland International Retreat Centre, Three Windfarm Studies and An Assessment of Infrasound; and http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/2010/your-guide-to-wind-turbine-syndrome)

These adverse health effects, when sustained, are risk factors for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disorders and cancer (Environmental Health Perspectives, National Institutes of Health, 2008).

What causes the problems?

Research suggests that noise in the range of 20-22 hertz is most likely the problem. The inner ear, along with other motion, balance, and position sensors throughout the body, is being jack-hammered by a low-frequency noise barely heard. As a result, these organs send scrambled signals to brain centers controlling memory, concentration, learning, and emotions (including panic and anxiety). (See Dr. Nina Pierpont, Wind Turbine Syndrome; Jane Wilson, Dirty Business: The Reality of Ontario’s Rush to Wind Power; Carl V. Phillips, epidemiologist; Dr. Hazel Lynn, medical officer of health for Grey Bruce Health Unit, Ontario) There is no relief indoors; in fact, the effect may be greater than outdoors due to vibrations of walls, floors or ceilings.

Current Ontario regulations do NOT take “infrasound” into account; they do NOT protect the public.

Who are the most susceptible?

Those most sensitive to effects include people with pre-existing migraine disorder (6% of males, 18% of females), those prone to motion sickness, or anyone with inner ear damage (Dr. Nina Pierpont, Wind Turbine Syndrome).

Who is aware of the problem?

The Ontario Government and the American and Canadian Wind Energy Associations have acknowledged that turbines impact health:

• The Ministry of Environment commissioned a report on existing Ontario wind turbine regulations and noise guidelines.  The report states: “The audible sound from wind turbines, at the levels experienced at typical receptor distances in Ontario, is nonetheless expected to result in a nontrivial percentage of persons being highly annoyed. As with sounds from many sources, research has shown that annoyance associated with sound from wind turbines can be expected to contribute to stress-related health impacts in some persons.” (Howe Gastmeier Chapnik Ltd. Dec. 2010, Rfp No. Oss-078696)

• The American and Canadian Wind Energy Associations sponsored a panel review of the scientific literature.  The review acknowledges wind turbine sound may cause annoyance which may result in sleep disturbance and stress. It attributes reported wind turbine symptoms – sleep disturbance, headache, tinnitus, ear pressure, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, visual blurring, tachycardia, irritability, problems with concentration and memory, and panic attack episodes associated with sensations of internal pulsation or quivering when awake or asleep – to be the “well known stress effects of exposure to noise”. (Colby et al., 2009)

• The Canadian wind industry admitted that peer-reviewed findings show that wind turbines in the vicinity can lower quality of life of individuals (Canadian Wind Energy Association, media release Oct 14, 2011).

• During the Ministry of Environment’s Environmental Review Tribunal hearings expert witnesses for both sides provided evidence and/or testimony acknowledging that wind turbines in Ontario “will” cause annoyance, which is expected to result in stress-related health impacts in some individuals. The evidence indicated that annoyance and sleep disturbance occurs at sound levels above and below 40 dBA. (MOE Case Nos. 10-121, 10-122, Dr. C. Ollson 17 Jan 2011)

What can be done to reduce the risk?

A setback of 2 km has been enacted in many jurisdictions and is the minimum requirement for protecting human health.

Further Information

To learn more, see attached document “Effect on Human Health” prepared by Dr. Robert McMurtry, former Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario, special advisor to the Romanow commission, and founding assistant deputy minister of the Population and Public Health Branch of Health Canada. Much of Dr. McMurtry’s position can also be learned at: http://nursesforsaferenewablepower.wordpress.com/tag/dr-robert-mcmurtry/ .  Or, in the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpuk4WlqeQg Read also the article “Setbacks” Health Canada states: Mental health is as important as physical health. In fact the two are intertwined. Our mental health directly affects our physical health and vice versa. Health Canada 2006: It’s Your Health Mental Health-Mental Illness

  1. breville juicers

    Excellent article. I am dealing with a few of these issues as well.

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